Oil spill Gulf of Mexico: One million gallons of crude oil spilled into home of world's most endangered whales and sea turtles

Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images)Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images)
Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images
Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles

One million gallons of crude oil has been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, home to some of the world’s most endangered whales and sea turtles. The spill was first detected on Friday (17 November) by the US Coast Guard with officials believing that the origin of the leak is near a 67-mile long pipeline system owned by Main Pass Oil Company, a subsidiary of Houston-based Third Coast Infrastructure LLC, which is located around Plaquemines Parish, in Louisiana, southeast of New Orleans.

The US Coast Guard said overflight teams had observed “visible oil” on the surface of the water and “intermittent surface sheens” over the weekend. In an update on Monday (20 November) the agency said that three skimming vessels were working to recover oil on the surface and that remotely operated vehicles would continue to survey the pipeline if weather conditions permitted.

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Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images)Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images)
Over one million gallons of crude oil has leaked into the Gulf of Mexico - home to world's most endangered whales and sea turtles. (Photo: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The coast guard added that the volume of discharged oil was “currently unknown” but the potential release from the affected pipeline could be up to 1.1 million gallons. The agency said in a statement: “The Coast Guard continues to oversee the co-ordinated effort to mitigate the impact of the oil discharge. “The Unified Command is co-ordinating with federal, state and local agencies to ensure the safety of the public, protect the environment, and respond to the incident. There have been no reports of injuries or shoreline impacts at this time.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the US Commerce Department, is helping oversee the incident, noting that even small amounts of oil spilled in the ocean can have severe impacts on local wildlife and ecosystems. NOAA’s emergency operations co-ordinator, Doug Helton, told WWL-TV that there are “endangered and threatened species in Louisiana waters” and it is an incident “that we can just ignore” as “there are a lot of things that live out in the gulf."

The Kemp’s Ridley, the world’s most endangered species of sea turtle, was found hatching for the first time in 75 years just north of the spill at the Chandeleur Islands. The species is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, meaning they are at "extremely high risk of extinction in the wild”.

According to NOAA, Rice Whales are also the only baleen whales known to inhabit Gulf waters. Fewer than 100 are thought to remain in the Gulf and scientists have previously warned that pipelines are a major risk to their existence.

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